It’s Amazing to Learn What Songs People Don’t Know

I know that I live in a music bubble.  I’m surrounded by all kinds of music 24/7, so I’m a little more aware of what’s going on than the average person.  Chances are that if you’re reading this, you are, too.  Music permeates ever aspect of your life–and quite possibly the lives of your friends and family.

However, I need to point out that we’re weird.  Very weird.

While there are millions of us hardcore superfans, the truth is that humankind consists mostly of casual music fans.  All they care about are songs with a good beat and songs they can sing along with.  They have no interest to go any deeper than the biggest hits.

Many superfans find this really, really hard to understand.  “How can you NOT be obsessed with music? What’s wrong with you?”  The answer is: nothing.  Music just doesn’t mean that much to these–and I stress this again–BILLIONS of people.

Here’s a little radio industry insight.  Program directors and music directors always have a very hard time convincing their on-air presenters that the station needs to keep playing certain songs even though everyone on staff is sick to death of them.  Here’s a rule of thumb: when your DJs start complaining about overplaying a song, that’s just about the time when most of your listening audience is just getting into it.

I find that Shazam is a great tool for pointing this out.  Open the app and click “Explore” at the bottom. Pinch the map to zoom in on the area where you live.  Then tap the image above your city or town.  What you will see are the songs that are being Shazamed the most by your neighbours.  In other words, these are the songs the people around you don’t know and are seeking to identify.

As I write this, the most searched-for track in Toronto is “Latch” by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith.  This is a song that’s been played 364 times by Virgin Radio, 225 times by Z103, 142 times by The Flow, 127 times by KISS 92 and 41 times by Indie 88. It’s just a matter of time before it’s picked up by CHFI and CHUM-FM.

It’s even weirder when you go to Los Angeles.  Despite being played 996 times on KIIS-FM, the city’s biggest pop station, “Latch” is the second-most Shazamed song in SoCal.  And the song has also been played 1,956 times on 97.1 Amp Radio in LA.  Yet tons of people still don’t know the song.

It’s the same story all over the continent.  “Latch” is one of the top three most-searched for songs in Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and dozens more.

Let this be a reminder to all of us:  just because we’re sick of a song doesn’t mean that’s it needs to go away.  More eye-opening figures at Mashable.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

4 thoughts on “It’s Amazing to Learn What Songs People Don’t Know

  • July 11, 2014 at 11:23 am

    When I was in high school (1985is) I had been listening to CFNY for a while, and spent a lot of time at Starr Records (in Oshawa) buying tons of vinyl. I was asked by a friend to make a mix tape of “dance music”….I was excited (i loved making mix tapes) – Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Trans X, U2, Devo, Blue Peter, Fingerprintz, Ultravox, Gary Numan, Haircut 100….he took it home and gave it back to me the next day asking “what the f**k is this s**t?”

    It was that moment that I realized CFNY wasn’t mainstream….these were not top 40 bands and I had no idea.

    • July 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      If it’s any consolation, I was in highschool 1996-2001 and loved that stuff. People liked my taste enough to let me control the music on the PA in our tech class. A tape with Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Trans X, Devo, Blue Peter, Ultravox, Gary Numan, (and Men Without Hats, Vapours, and other stuff I no longer remember from the tracklisting) even got me a hot date 🙂

  • July 11, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    Sorry, but, I think that’s more of an insight into the status quo of Program and Music Directors. That’s why radio is generic now. That’s why the web has exploded with music discovery sites. That’s why you call them ‘on-air presenters’. They used to be DJ’s, their personality and music choices made people want to listen to them, made them celebrities.
    Radio needs a turnover of boomer management, badly. Old concepts, old ideologies, killing new music.

    “Here’s a little radio industry insight. Program directors and music directors always have a very hard time convincing their on-air presenters that the station needs to keep playing certain songs even though everyone on staff is sick to death of them. Here’s a rule of thumb:’

    I Shazam songs that turn out to be the megahits- not because I want to know what song it is, but because I have not cared enough to bother, and I’m inundated by that tune, it is ubiquitous, regardless of my choice or enjoyment. I want to be informed because I am irritated, I want to be able to avoid it.

  • July 12, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Great article as always, but the numbers don’t necessarily reflect people that don’t know the song. I often use shazam as a quick way of “reminding” myself of music I like. I’ll hear a song while I’m out and will already know the artist and song title,
    But will use shazam to create a list that I will later create a playlist from later. Often these songs are already on my iphone, but I find it faster to click the shazam app and then the circle, then to open notes and try to type it out.

    I think the stats are likely a huge number of people that don’t know the song, but I’m sure there are others like me out there?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.